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Circulation. 1995 Nov 15;92(10):2911-8.

Effect of insulin on acetylcholine-induced vasodilation in normotensive subjects and patients with essential hypertension.

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  • 1I Clinica Medica, University of Pisa, Italy.



The present study was designed to directly test the vasodilation action of insulin and its relation to endothelium-dependent mechanisms.


In 18 normotensive subjects and 27 patients with untreated mild to moderate essential hypertension, we studied the effect of intrabrachial insulin on the changes in forearm blood flow (strain-gauge plethysmography) induced by intrabrachial acetylcholine (at doses of 0.15, 0.45, 1.5, 4.5, and 15 micrograms.min-1.dL-1), an endothelium-dependent vasodilator, or sodium nitroprusside (at doses of 1, 2, and 4 micrograms.min-1.dL-1), and endothelium-independent vasodilator. Local hyperinsulinemia (deep venous plasma insulin, 48 +/- 6 and 51 +/- 5 microU/mL in control subjects and hypertensive patients, respectively) did not affect basal forearm blood flow and stimulated forearm glucose extraction (control subjects, 3 +/- 1% to 11 +/- 2%, P < .001; hypertensive patients, 3 +/- 1% to 6 +/- 1%, P < .001; P < .01 for the between-group difference). In both normotensive and hypertensive subjects, insulin significantly potentiated acetylcholine-induced vasodilation, whereas it did not alter the vasodilatory response to sodium nitroprusside. NG-monomethyl-L-arginine, an inhibitor of endothelial nitric oxide synthesis, blunted insulin-induced facilitation of acetylcholine vasodilation in normotensive but not in hypertensive subjects. In contrast, in hypertensive patients but not in normotensive control subjects, the potentiation of the vascular response to acetylcholine induced by local hyperinsulinemia was abolished by intrabrachial ouabain, an inhibitor of Na(+)-K+ pump.


In healthy humans and essential hypertensive patients alike, local physiological hyperinsulinemia per se does not increase forearm blood flow but potentiates the vasodilation induced by acetylcholine regardless of metabolic insulin resistance. This effect is endothelium-dependent because it is not seen with nitroprusside and is related to the L-arginine-nitric oxide pathway in normotensive subjects and to smooth muscle cell hyperpolarization in essential hypertensive patients.

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